No matter how many times I read or write about it, I am still overwhelmed and amazed when I see what 3D printing technology is currently able to do for the medical field, and what it has the potential to do down the line. Today, 3D Systems, a company that’s nearly synonymous with precision healthcare capabilities, and biotechnology company United Therapeutics Corporation announced a joint plan to develop solid-organ scaffolds for use in human transplants. The multi-year development and collaboration is a good fit, combining 3D Systems’ healthcare and 3D printing expertise with the organ manufacturing and regenerative medicine proficiency of United Therapeutics, which is also a member of the consortium that makes up the Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Manufacturing USA Institute.
Vyomesh Joshi, CEO of 3D Systems, said, “As a global leader in healthcare solutions, we are part of many developments and applications for 3D printing coming together including bioprinting. We believe bioprinting is a powerful opportunity and we are uniquely positioned with the broadest portfolio of technologies to partner with companies of the caliber of United Therapeutics to provide healthcare solutions of the future.”
In addition to collaborating with United Therapeutics, which is focused on developing and commercializing products that address the medical needs of patients living with chronic and life-threatening conditions, 3D Systems will also work with its organ manufacturing and transplantation-focused subsidiary, Lung Biotechnology PBC, which is the first public benefit corporation subsidiary of a public biotechnology or pharmaceutical company.
Through several technologies that expand the supply or delay the need for transplantable organs, Lung Biotechnology PBC addresses head-on the critical shortage of transplantable lungs, and other organs, in the US. With the subsidiary also on board with the 3D Systems collaboration, an additional technology alternative can be added to United Therapeutics’ “pursuit of an unlimited supply of organs for human transplantation.”
Dr. Martine Rothblatt, PhD, Chairman and CEO of United Therapeutics, said, “Our Lung Biotechnology public benefit corporation is taking personal regenerative medicine to its highest level yet with this practical, economic solution to a major health care problem. Indeed, we expect one personalized organ transplant will avoid years of health care spending on palliative medical therapies.”
The focus of the joint bioprinting agreement is to develop 3D printing systems for solid-organ scaffolds, and with Lung Biotechnology PBC’s participation, obviously the first thing the companies will tackle is lung scaffolds. Scaffolds are an important part of the bioprinting process, as they give printed cells, and organs, a structure to develop and grow on. So determining the correct way to create a scaffold is incredibly important to the success of these endeavors.
“Combining the resources of United Therapeutics and 3D Systems transforms our capability to tackle this difficult challenge. This project will be based out of our new bioprinting lab in San Diego, CA, and will rely on expertise across many technical disciplines within 3D Systems as well as the domain knowledge of our technical partners at Lung Biotechnology PBC,” said Chuck Hull, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for 3D Systems.
The 3D printing system that 3D Systems and United Therapeutics hope to create will be targeting collagen, along with other building block proteins, as the raw materials for the scaffolds themselves. In turn, Lung Biotechnology PBC will then celluralize the scaffolds using patient-specific biological material, which includes re-differentiated stem cells.
According to organdonor.gov, every single organ has a different policy on how to regulate matching donor organs with patients on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) waiting list, depending on criteria like blood type and severity of illness. The OPTN list, which was updated this morning, shows that 118,003 people are in need of a lifesaving organ transplant, but as of yesterday, only 3,948 donors are listed. While one donor can save up to eight lives, that’s still a pretty big gap, making the work that 3D Systems, United Therapeutics, and Lung Biotechnology PBC are embarking upon even more important. Discuss in the 3D Printed Scaffolds forum at 3DPB.com.
“Our partnership with 3D Systems is a major step forward in creating an unlimited supply of tolerable transplanted organs. By cellularizing scaffolds created with 3D Systems printers with a patient’s own cells, there will no longer be a need for immunosuppression and a vastly greater number of patients can extend their enjoyment of life through organ transplantation,” said Dr. Rothblatt.